Why Connections Matter: The Networked Economy At Mobile World Congress

Everything we touch, say, and do generates data. On any given day, over 1.3 billion of us are interacting with each other on social networks. More than nine billion sensors are tracking much of what is created, sold, and delivered. And all of this activity generates data – a lot of it.

However, each piece of data is not created by itself. Rather, it’s a representation of many complex connections among people, devices, and businesses. We already see these connections at work with the introduction of “smart” cars, buildings, homes, industrial equipment, wearables, and more.

The Internet of Things: Where Data Gets Connected

As we continue to use technology and contribute to this ocean of data, the Internet of Things (IoT) is taking a more central role in the evolution of commerce and society. Gartner projects that the number of connected devices in the IoT will increase nearly 30-fold in just over a decade, growing from about 900 million connected devices in 2009 to more than 26 billion by 2020. As a result, everything – companies, processes, data, and things – is connected in a network.

Companies in all industries are well-aware of the opportunities that abound from this data. According to the IDC report “IDC Predictions 2015: Accelerating Innovation – and Growth – on the 3rd Platform,” IoT spending in 2015 is expected to exceed $1.7 trillion. This is a 14 percent jump from 2014 that is driven by nearly 15 billion devices. By 2020, this will rise to $3 trillion and nearly 30 billion devices.

How will this trend change our lives? Drastically. The IoT will revolutionize how we work, live, and play while transforming how businesses run and compete. Embedded intelligence in a growing network of connected devices will increasingly connect people and businesses to everything else – and become the very fabric of a networked economy.

The Networked Economy: A Promise of a Better Life for Consumers

This digitization of fast-growing, multilayered, highly interactive, real-time connections among people, devices, and businesses is the landscape in which a new kind of economic environment is emerging – the Networked Economy.

For ordinary citizens, this means an opportunity to lead safer, simpler lives. For example, connected cars are designed to make driving safer and reduce commute times thanks to connected devices, real-time vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and historical route preferences.

We also have an opportunity to share resources in a more responsible way. This type of global sharing of “stuff” is gaining popularity thanks to startups such as Zipcar, Uber, and Airbnb. In addition, we are better able to balance our personal and professional demands for our time. By working with business networks that help conduct commerce between buyers and sellers that are as easy to use as personal shopping networks like Amazon or Alibaba, we can help ensure our businesses are operating without disruption while we’re meeting our personal commitments.

We’re even beginning to reinvent traditional value chains that were thought to be fixed. For example, crowdsourcing is lessening consumer reliance on banks for credit and loans. Some of us are generating our own power by using solar panels and building up power grids with surplus energy. Entertainment channels – such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and Sony – are changing the rules of traditional media by distributing shows, once refused by cable providers, that are gaining worldwide popularity on our nearest iPads.

And even businesses are realizing the value of business networks for managing spend such as procurement, contingent labor management, complex services, travel, and everything else in between. In response to this trend, my company (SAP) has created the world’s largest business network for managing 100 percent of this spend. How large is the network? It’s 75 percent larger than Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba combined and touches over 74 percent of the world’s transaction revenue.

How about you and your business? Have you been impacted by this emerging trend?

If you’re visiting MWC 2015 at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, we invite you to stop by our booth in Hall 6, Booth 6A30 to see examples of how the Networked Economy is changing lives today.

For more perspectives on the Networked Economy and its impact on our world, check out Conversations on the Networked Economy  and  SAP S/4HANA.

This story previously appeared on SAPVoice on Forbes.
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